For some reason Mother Nature has designated this official slip and slide week as it has been pretty much raining every day. Definitely a welcome relief for our two wells, but a total pain in the ass on the ultra marathon training front. Somehow managed to get my 55 miles in mostly between the rain showers – today I just got poured on for at least half of my 13 thanks to a ridiculously bad forecast (not even close a mere 2 hours ahead). Hoping the trails dry out soon so I can get some more dirt work in as the 50k is a mere two weeks away. Lot of pressure on me – if I repeat and end up in the hospital again, Linda is going to take my shoes away. While slogging through the rain today, decided I would go with this dude for today’s featured feathered friend.
Probably wondering how this decision came about as our specimen is neither a duck (per the rain conditions) nor would I have seen it anywhere near where I train. Truth is, it is a bit of a loose association. The rain reminded me of the conditions we experienced while trying to bird Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park back in January. Not as hard of a drenching as it was today, but like running in soaking wet clothes equally annoying trying to get something decent in the tin. The other reason this particular bird came to mind was all the talk about the southern border this week.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about our transitioning specimen.
At the time I took this series of shots, the immature Vermilion Flycatcher you are looking at was sitting on a wire probably 100 yards from newly constructed border wall. All was silent then as that morning all construction was officially halted. Before we headed over to the park we watched from our campground as the workers gathered up some gear, got into their trucks and headed out. The Bentsen Rio Grande Valley SP sits south of the wall. When you enter the park you can see the end of of the tall beams off to the left. This funnels those trying to cross illegally into the Border Patrol and National Guard officers stationed just off the park entrance road. The Bentsen stretches to the banks of the Rio Grande and is heavily patrolled by vehicles, tracking balloons and helicopters – can’t imagine how bad it is these days.
While walking back to the RV after an afternoon of birding, I noticed this Vermilion scanning the skies for tasty insects. It was perched above the stationed officers, making me a bit uncomfortable pointing The Beast in their general direction. No need to raise any unnecessary concerns, their job is already hard enough. To remedy the situation I really needed to cross over the road they were on so I could point in the opposite direction. There was a group of people taking selfies right next to the wall which didn’t seem to be bothering the National Guard members standing there. In respect for their difficult duty, I politely called over and asked them if it would be okay to walk towards them so I could get a better angle at the Flycatcher while pointing up at the specimen above their head. I did notice and assess each of their excellent choices in sidearms (Sigs likely chambered in .40SW), but resisted starting up that conversation. They were extremely pleasant and assured me it was perfectly okay to approach. Pretty sure the Flycatcher was watching this whole event play out so he could capture video of a birder getting taken down to give his friends a laugh.
Now on the better side I could focus my attention on getting our feathered friend in the tin. The Vermilion Flycatcher is not a new bird to the blog having been featured back in 2018 (link here). That series came from my first encounter at Anahuac NWR. These birds primarily hang out in Central American but reach up along the southern border – some scarce sightings along the southern coastlines and a deeper push into Texas/New Mexico/Arizona during breeding season. The mature male is one of the most brilliantly colored birds you will ever meet.
Our specimen hasn’t transitioned into its regal coat yet and thus displays splotchy patches with more of an orange hue. The crown was just starting to come in and depending on which angle it was willing to give me at any given time you could see some of the coloring coming in across the whitish breast and neck.
To distinguish it from the females and the juvis, the females remain in the brown coloring on top and a very white neck which continues down the breast until it blends into the orangish/reddish hue you see on the back of this immature. I have never seen a Juvi, but according to Cornell, they are very brown with a heavily streaked chest and a “pale peach” colored undertail coverts. A far cry from what the mature males become.
These Vermilions are typical Flycatchers and exhibit their standard behavior. Find nice unobstructed perch, scan the skies for insects stupid enough to come into their kill zone and then launch into an impressive display of aerial acrobats to grab the insect out of midair usually returning to the exact same perch. I could enjoy watching that scenario play out all day long. As I am out of shots, went and checked out Cornell’s site to bring you some interesting facts before letting you go. Their genius name means “fire-headed” If you ask me, that would have been a better name for this bird – especially given I wouldn’t have to keep looking it up to see if it has one or two “L’s” every time I need to spell it. My apologies to all you Butterfly people out there, but these birds like to use them to impress their mates – catch it, smack it against something and offer it up to the prettiest female around – was interesting to learn they can eat them as I always thought they were poisonous to predators such as birds – must be just the Monarchs that applies to.
Will leave it there folks. Hope you enjoyed seeing a different version of one of the rarer Flycatchers to the US.